BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Coyotes added four defensemen to the mix on Saturday on the second day of the NHL Draft at the First Niagara Center. Three of those players were draft picks selected after the fourth player, Anthony DeAngelo, was acquired via a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning early in Round 2.
After picking just four defensemen in the past three drafts, the Coyotes clearly changed strategy this year.
“We addressed an organizational need,” Coyotes General Manager John Chayka said. “We were a little aggressive doing it, but we felt we got the players that we wanted… We feel confident in what we did. I think the preparation and the process was great. Now we have a real strong pipeline of defensemen… and we come away feeling pretty good about where our depth is in our organization.”
Chayka, 27, earned much praise from analysts and on social media for his performance in his rookie draft, but he said it wasn’t about proving himself on a personal level.
“I think there was a need where we’re at as an organization picking seventh, you’ve got to be aggressive and you’ve got to be active and try to improve your team, and show your players and your organization that you’re serious about getting better,” Chayka said. “That was my focus.”
After drafting center Clayton Keller 7th overall and defenseman Jakob Chychrun 16th overall on Friday night, Arizona was supposed to pick 37th overall on Saturday. But the Coyotes opted to send that pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for DeAngelo, whom the Lightning drafted 19th overall two years ago.
DeAngelo learned of the deal while watching the draft on TV.
“I’m real excited about it,” DeAngelo said. “It’s a little surprising at first, but I’m real excited to be part of the Coyotes organization. It’s a young team. It’s up and coming. They’ve got players like Max Domi and (Anthony) Duclair, young guys that are doing some really good things… It’s an organization that people are starting to pay attention to and it’s exciting to be a part of it.”
|Anthony Deangelo in 2014. Photo by Getty Images. |
Chayka said DeAngelo, an offensive defenseman who notched six goals and 37 assists in 69 games last season for Syracuse of the American Hockey League, is a player the Coyotes have been considering acquiring since the NHL Trade Deadline last season.
“When you get a chance to get a talent like that with the 37th overall pick, for me, the risk profile was right,” Chayka said.
After one year in pro hockey, DeAngelo appears NHL ready.
“I think I’m ready and I’m going to do whatever I can to make the team,” DeAngelo said. “I’m just going to keep working until I’m there.”
The Coyotes selected defenseman Cameron Dineen in the third round with the 68th overall pick.
“It’s definitely a special feeling (to get drafted) and probably the best moment of my life so far,” Dineen said.
Like DeAngelo, Dineen, who produced 13 goals and 46 assists in 68 games last season for North Bay of the Ontario Hockey League, is from New Jersey and likes to be involved offensively.
|Cameron Dineen. Photo by Dave Vest |
“I’ve always been an offense-first defenseman,” Dineen said. “I think my defensive game is getting better. I really like to move the puck up to the forwards and join the play and create as much offense as I can. I like to be a playmaker and use my vision to make plays. I think I just need to get stronger overall and get some leg strength. I need to work on some skating - quickness and explosiveness. I think that’s the main weakness of my game, but that’s something that’s definitely able to be worked on so I’m going to really go at it this summer.”
Coyotes Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Bernhardt used the word “subtle” to describe Dineen’s approach to offense.
“He’s kind of like today’s defenseman,” Bernhardt said. “He’s not a big guy, but he’s a really, really smart hockey player. We really like his hockey sense and calmness out there, and his ability to move the puck up from the back end.”
After sending their fourth-round pick (No. 120 overall) to Philadelphia to complete last year’s trade for defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, the Coyotes picked Canadian defenseman Patrick Kudla with the 158th overall pick in the sixth round.
|Tim Bernhardt and John Chayka. Photo by Getty Images. |
“He’s a bit of a late bloomer,” Bernhardt said. “He was a forward right up until two years ago. He was a 5-11 forward and then he just had a real growth spurt and switched position. It’s a steep learning curve for him, but he’s got some real good tools to work with.”
Kudla notched 13 goals and 53 assists in 50 games for Oakville in the Ontario Junior Hockey League last season. His 53 assists and 60 points led all OHL defensemen. He will play in the United States Hockey League next season and has committed to play at Arizona State University for 2017-18.
Kulda did not attend the draft. Neither did Dean Stewart, a Canadian defenseman the Coyotes selected with the 188th pick in the seventh round.
Stewart is a big, right-handed blueliner who will play for the University of Nebraska Omaha next season after producing eight goals and 14 assists in 42 games for Portage of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League last season.